Suspension of Catalan self-government / Main Corsican pro-autonomy party launched / Western Sahara process

13 to 19 October

Spanish president Mariano Rajoy.
Spanish president Mariano Rajoy. Author: EPP
WEEKLY ROUNDUP. The Spanish government continues gearing up for the partial suspension of Catalonia’s self-government, some of its measures beginning to take shape: elections, police and public media will be among the affected areas. Self-government talks in Corsica too, in a quite different mood: an alliance of pro-autonomy and pro-independence parties is seeking to get legislative powers in three years’ time. The new, merged party of the pro-autonomy camp has just held its founding Congress. In Western Sahara, the new UN envoy faces a difficult task to relaunch political dialogue, while in South Yemen a new pro-independence initiative is being announced.


Spanish government to partially suspend Catalan autonomy. Terms and scope of the suspension are being discussed by the Spanish government and main opposition party PSOE. One of the measures included is to suspend the ability of the Catalan president to call elections —according to the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, he or she is the only authority with powers to cal them— in order to force a snap election in January. Some PP leaders have expressed support for preventing pro-independence parties from running for office. Speaking to Antena 3 broadcaster, socialist leader Carmen Calvo has suggested that government intervention will also affect two pillars of Catalan self-government: the public media and the autonomous police.

This package of measures adds to the intervention of Catalan government’s finances —which was decreed by the Spanish ministry of Finance in September— and to the attempt to prevent by force —with the result of almost 900 people injured— the holding of Catalonia’s referendum of independence, 1 October.

The Spanish government announced, October 19, that it would push ahead with the paperwork of article 155 of the Constitution, which allows the government to “force” an autonomous community to fulfill certain functions and to “give instructions” to the community’s authorities.

The announcement came after Catalan president Carles Puigdemont answered two requirements from the Spanish government on whether Catalonia had declared independence on 10 October. Puigdemont’s letter said proceedings to enforce Article 155 —which had been launched on 16 October by the Spanish government— amounted to a denial by Madrid for dialogue. Thus, Puigdemont went on, “the Parliament of Catalonia will proceed, if deemed appropriate, to vote on the formal declaration of independence, which it did not vote on October 10.” The declaration was not voted, but was signed by all 72 pro-independence MPs, who hold the absolute majority at the Catalan chamber. A debate on whether such vote should be triggered was held October 19 by both pro-independence parliamentary groups (Together for Yes and CUP), without any definitive agreement being publicly reported.

The decision came the same week that Spain’s exceptional high court, the Audiencia Nacional, sent to prison without bail Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, the president of grassroots pro-independence organizations Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium under charges of sedition. The pro-independence movement considers them political prisoners, and has held massive demonstrations in the streets of Catalan cities and towns over the week, asking for their immediate release.


Corsican pro-autonomy parties mergeA former alliance made up of Corsican Nation Party (PNC), Inseme and Chjama Naziunale has become a single party (Femu a Corsica) and has held its founding Congress. The first goal of the new party will be to win the Corsican election —under an alliance with pro-independence Corsica Libera party— in December. Within three years’ time, Femu a Corsica and Corsica Libera seek to obtain a Statute for the island that includes co-official status for Corsican and law-making powers.

Horst Kohler faces uphill task to relaunch Western Sahara dialogue. The former German president and new UN special envoy for Western Sahara, has been tasked to rebuild expectations for a negotiated solution to the conflict in the Moroccan-occupied country. Kohler, in his first mission on the ground since his appointment, has been received by the Moroccan king and the Moroccan government of Morocco, and has visited Sahrawi refugee camps, where he has met Polisario Front leaders.

Santiago Maldonado case: corpse found in river. The young man is missing since August 1, when he was participating in a protest of the Pu Lof Mapuche community in Cushamen (Argentina). A group of divers discovered, 17 October, a corpse in the Chubut River. Argentinian authorities investigate whether it is Maldonado’s. The Pu Lof community believes the corpse was left there on purpose, and argues “it is impossible not to have seen it” in previous searches. A gendarme has been indicted. The Argentinian government has been making surprising turns in its explanations and theories on the case.

Yet another pro-independence initiative announced in South Yemen.It is now the turn for former Aden governor Aidaroos al-Zubaidi, who says he will organize a South Yemeni Parliament that will be responsible for administering the territory. At the same time, the South Yemeni leader says a referendum on independence will be “soon” announced. South Yemen’s independence movement, however, has a long history of division, which has not stopped in 2017. A civil war started in Yemen in 2015. Most pro-independence South Yemenis support one of two Yemen’s governments, that of Aden-based Mansur Hadi. Parts of South Yemen are controlled by various jihadi or tribal groups.